I have a feeling that this piece will probably be a sort of upside down version of the one I wrote a few days ago about the French adman M. Dru, and his theory of “disruption.”
It’s one of those negative words for whichÂ no positive counterpart exists – there isn’t aÂ word “ruption.”Â But if there was, I suspect we’d use it a lot in the investment funds market -Â and perhaps particularly to describe the relationship, at brand and advertising levels, between Jupiter, New Star and Neptune.
We all know the Jupiter/New Star story, with John Duffield founding the former, selling it to Commerzbank, falling out with them, leaving to foundÂ the latter,Â and choosing quite deliberately to make his new brand a twice-as-lurid version of his old one.Â
I think, though I’m a bit hazy on the details, that there’s actually an earlier chapter to this story,Â in whichÂ a few people break away from the giant fund management group then named after the tiny planet Mercury, and as an act of intentional hubris name their small new start-up after the very biggest planet, Jupiter.
To be honest, I don’t know whether there’s a historical connection between Mercury and/or Jupiter and/or New Star and the latest big-budget advertiser in the retail funds market, Neptune.Â But even if there is, Neptune’s level of Jupiter and New Star looky-likiness is silly and embarrassing, and leaves everyone thinking that this whole stupid planet thing has gone past a joke.
With Neptune’s visuals and headlines looking and sounding almost exactly like Jupiter’s previous approach (before they moved on to their current planet-in-close-up style) I’d have thought that the latter had a pretty good case for a passing-off action, with Neptune’s best line of defence probably being that nothing in Jupiter’s previous advertising ever resembled Neptune’s ugly and amateurish logo.
ButÂ no-one wantsÂ lawyers getting involved.Â What we want is smart brand, advertising and marketing people who can get stuck in to at least one of these Identibrands andÂ develop something different and special.
It’s true – as M. Dru says in hisÂ scribings on disruption – that in many, if not most, advertising sectors there are sets of invisible Category Rules that result in obvious similarities in the way that brands present and promote themselves.Â You know pretty much what I mean if I say “shampoo commercial” or “washing powder commercial” or “press ad for computer retailer.”Â But the game is then to try to differentiate within the category rules, a bit like medieval painters trying to do something different with the Madonna and Child.
This is, arguably, what Jupiter and New Star are doing.Â Beyond the Duffield-driven similarities (astronomical objects, fixation on performance, hyper-lurid inks) there are clearly different intelligences at work.Â Jupiter is aiming for wit, involvement, concision:Â New Star is more like a Hyde Park orator, seeking to overcome doubters by shouting at them very loudly and at tremendous length.
But you couldn’t credit Neptune with a controlling intelligence of its own.Â It’s all just pallid imitation – dull visuals, weak layouts, feeble headlines, dreary copy.Â
I find it astonishing that a brand apparently committed to spending millions of pounds on building a reputation among retail investors and advisers doesn’t have the courage, the ability or even the sheer common sense to try to lay outÂ its own stall a little further away from the two biggest, brightest and best-known in the marketplace.Â
We wait with bated breath for the next wannabe investment brand to appear.Â Â (In this market, it may take a while.) M. Dru, and I, and everyone else who thinks it’s important to try to be different, are all hoping that it’s not just another planet with obvious and literal copy and visuals.
Unless, of course, someone does go for Uranus.